This is part one of a four part series of Ron Sider’s speech verbatim from Mennonite World Conference in 1984 that convicted many to make Jesus’ admonition to be peacemakers count with their lives. Here’s the intro…
“God’s People Reconciling”
Over our last 450 years of martyrdom, migration, and missionary proclamation, the God of shalom has been preparing us Anabaptists for a late twentieth-century rendezvous with history. The next twenty years will be the most dangerous — and perhaps the most vicious and violent — in human history. If we are ready to embrace the cross, God’s reconciling people will profoundly impact the course of world history.
Violent economic structures annually maim and murder the poor by the millions. Idolatrous nationalism, religious bigotry, racial prejudice, and economic selfishness turn people against people in terrifying orgies of violence in Northern Ireland, the Middle East, Southern Africa, and Latin America. The competing self-righteous ideologies of the United States and the Soviet Union trample arrogantly on the people’s dreams for justice and freedom in Central America and Afghanistan, the Philippines and Poland. Always, behind every regional conflict which kills thousands or millions, lurks the growing possibility of a nuclear exchange between the superpowers which would kill hundreds of millions. We teeter on the brink of nuclear holocaust.
Our 450 years of commitment to Jesus’ love for enemies finds its kairos in these two terrifiyng decades. This could be our finest hour. Never has the world needed our message more. Never has it been more open. Now is the time to risk everything for our belief that Jesus is the way to peace. If we still believe it, now is the time to live what we have spoken.
To rise to this challenge of history, we need to do three things:
1) We need to reject the ways we have misunderstood or weakened Jesus’ call to be peacemakers.
2) We need to embrace the full biblical understanding of shalom
3) and we need to prepare to die by the thousands.
That’s the end of part one here…as you can see, the next three sections will be ordered by his points. For those reading this who have no idea what Anabaptism is, feel free to ask. For those who think Sider’s just talking to those aforementioned Anabaptists, he’s not. It is his contention (and mine) that the way of Jesus is the way of nonviolent, sacrificial, self-giving love at its heart. Philippians 2:1-12 sets the stage incredibly for Jesus as our example of fully faithful human.
And for those who think I (and other pacifists) have some sort of Messiah complex, read the history of the early church, take a look at the life of Paul and other early apostles, and see how they lined up their lives with Jesus’. And if you think Sider’s third point is morbid, give it some time (as well as consider what nationalists across the globe are willing to give for their individual countries).
p.s. Sorry about how hard-core I am here, but if you’d do me the honor of lending me your ear, listening to Jesus’ teaching as if he really wanted us to hold to his standard, and considering what you mean if you are one of those who claims Jesus as “Lord,” we might have a good conversation and some sold-out followers on our hands. I’ve never ceased to have seen my discipleship further sharpened by discussions on the practical implications of Jesus’ teachings.p
p.p.s. While some of Sider’s comments might be a bit outdated now, I found in stepping back and looking at the last twenty years that much of what he has said has been true. In addition, though the Soviet Union has now fallen, the practice of nuclear deterrence is clearly not out of vogue (see: U.S. missile defense system, N. Korean missile tests, India/Pakistan nuclear buildup). The annihilation of our world still is very real…and may we never forget with all this talk of “rogue nations” the only nation ever to use nuclear weaponry.
For a balanced biography on Sider for those interested, hit up this link.